Wage/Overtime Claims

Oil & Gas Industry

The Oil and Gas Industry is notorious for its illegal pay practices that deny employees overtime compensation. Companies frequently pay a day rate, or salary to their field workers. Regardless of the field employee’s job title, most employees are due overtime for all hours worked over 40 in a week. This also applies to Oil and Gas field workers who are incorrectly labeled as “independent contractors.”

Independent Contractors

Quite a number of companies avoid paying the minimum wage and/or overtime by misclassifying employees as Independent Contractors. Just because an employer says a worker is an independent contractor does not mean that employee is an Independent Contractor under the law. If your employer sets your work hours, prescribes the details of how you complete your work, or controls which jobs you must perform, then there is a good chance that you are owed overtime wages.

Employees Not Paid by the Hour

Many employees are paid a salary, day rate, or commission, but does not mean they are not owed overtime. Employees who are paid a job rate, day rate, salary, or commission are entitled to overtime pay for hours worked over 40 in a week.

Unpaid “Meal” Breaks

Many employees often assume, incorrectly, that breaks do not have to be paid for. This is a common misconception that employers are all too happy to take advantage of. The law on this issue however is very clear, all breaks of twenty minutes or less must be fully paid. Lunch breaks over twenty minutes, do not have to be paid, only if the employee is not required to work during the break. If you are required to work through your meal break and the employer automatically deducts thirty minutes from your paid time, you may be entitled to pay for this time.

Miscalculated Overtime Rate

Overtime wages are not based solely off of an employee’s stated hourly rate. Commissions, bonuses, and other forms of additional compensation generally need to be included in the overtime calculation. Overtime compensation should be paid to covered employees (e.g., employees who are not subject to an exemption from the overtime protections) at a rate of at least 1.5 times their regular rate of pay for hours worked in excess of 40 per workweek.

Our overtime lawyer and staff are trained to recognize overtime calculation errors and are available to discuss whether your overtime pay is being calculated correctly.

Tipped Employees

If you are an employee who regularly and customarily receives more than $30 in tips a month, the federal law allows your employer to pay you a wage below the federal minimum rate under certain circumstances. This is called a tip credit. Your employer can take a tip credit if it notifies you that it is doing so and provides you with the appropriate information.

A tip credit allows your employer to count some of your tips towards its wage payment obligations, but only if you earn enough tips to cover the difference between your reduced wage rate and the normal federal minimum wage. During slow weeks when you make little to no tips, you employer may need to pay you a greater wage to ensure you are at least earning the federal minimum. Employers may forget to ensure minimum wages are earned, or may even illegally fail to pay tipped employees any wages. This is illegal, and our lawyers may be able to help if this is happening to you.

While the law does allow employers to require tipped employees to pool their tips together in a valid sharing arrangement, employers commonly violate these rules by including, for example, kitchen employees or management in the tip pool.

The tip credit and tip pooling rules can be complicated. Our knowledgeable wage and hour lawyer can help you determine whether your minimum wage rights are being violated.

Off-the-Clock Work

Hourly employees, are generally entitled to an overtime premium for hours worked over 40 in a workweek. This includes time worked off-the-clock, but not recorded, when an employer suffers or permits an employee to work it. Many employers underpay their workers by not paying for all the hours the worker is actually on the job. A worker must be paid for all time spent on job-related activities. Generally, all time an employee is required to be at the premises of the employer is work time, and all regular shift time is work time. This includes time spent putting on and taking off required safety equipment before and after your scheduled shift. This also included “breaks” (if there are breaks), and may include your lunch break if your employer does not provide at least 20 minutes for you to eat a meal. Work done “at home” or at a place other than the normal work site is work, and the time must be counted.

Pre-shift “roll calls” are work time. Time spent setting up equipment before the official start time of a shift is work time. Some employees may similarly “stay late” after shifts performing work, and this time must be counted as work time as well. Time spent by an employee cleaning equipment after the close of a shift is work time. Post-shift work time could also include time spent by an employee performing job-related activities “on the way home,” as for example a secretary who drops off the day’s mail at the post office or delivers some paperwork to a customer or supplier. Some employees take work home. That time may well be work time. Similarly, if an employee is contacted at home by telephone for work related reasons, the time spent is work time (and, of course, if an employee is “called back” to work, the time counts as work time). Other activities that must be paid are travel time and idle time. While documentation of the unpaid off-the-clock hours is preferred, an employee may still seek compensation without the documentation, by providing a good faith estimate of their off-the-clock time worked.